Women’s basketball: FAU drops heartbreaker to UTEP in defensive affair

Both teams shot a combined 32 percent from the field.


Sophomore Ra’Kyra Gabriel leads the Owls in blocked shots this season. Photo by Mohammed F. Emran

Hans Belot Jr., Sports Editor

After forcing the Miners into a contested 3-pointer, Florida Atlantic women’s basketball got the ball back with five seconds left on the clock with a chance to win the game. The ball was inbounded to junior Nika Zyryanova, who then found junior Sasha Cedeno in the corner with a pass.

Cedeno’s potential game-winning 3-pointer went in and out before bouncing on the rim twice, but did not fall at the end, giving the Owls (4-12, 0-5 Conference USA) their fifth straight loss to start conference play 51-50 to the University of Texas-El Paso Saturday night in Boca Raton.

“We just wanted to get a good look at the basket,” said head coach Kellie Lewis-Jay. “I thought it was a good look and it looked like it was going down but it didn’t. That seems to be the theme [of our season].”

After holding the Miners to just 32 percent shooting in the first three quarters, the team couldn’t manage the same kind of defense in the final quarter. The Miners (5-12, 2-3 Conference USA) shot 50 percent from the field in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 points in the period after averaging just 11.3 points in the first three quarters.

FAU began the game slowly shooting from the field, knocking down just two of its first eight shots and trailed 9-6 early on. However, the Owls went on a 10-0 run to end the quarter, taking a 16-9 lead.

The Owls extended their lead in the second quarter by performing well on defense, holding the Miners to 33 percent shooting from the field and forcing eight turnovers. FAU, however, could not manage to hang on to what was once a 13 point lead, failing to score a field goal in the last 4:39 in the game while shooting only 18.8 percent during that period.

“We missed a lot of open shots,” said Lewis-Jay. “I think defensively we did a phenomenal job. We hold a team to 51 points, You outshoot them, you get more offensive rebounds, you get to the free throw line more, stat wise you should win the basketball game. When you shoot 28 percent, you’re not going many games. You have to knock down the open shots.”

The Owls did get a boost in scoring from their bench, as junior Nika Zyryanova led the team with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting in the first half. She finished as FAU‘s leading scorer with 12 points.

Although a Malia Kency jumper 24 seconds into the second half extended FAU’s lead to 38-29, the Owls scored just six points the remainder of the period. That drought allowed UTEP to take its first lead of the second half 32-31.

The Owls shot 29 percent, including 4-of-17 from three-point territory. The Miners did not do much better themselves, shooting 35 percent from the field and committing 17 turnovers.

Tamara Seda led UTEP with 13 points, to go along with a game high 14 rebounds.

“They have to believe in themselves,” said Lewis-Jay. “I think they know that we can do it. I just need everybody to believe in themselves.”

FAU will take on the University of Alabama-Birmingham next on the road, on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m.

Hans Belot Jr. is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him at @Don_Phenom_.